Asian challengers emerge

16 March 2012

SINGAPORE: AirAsia, Axiata and Petra Foods are among the new Southeast Asian "challengers" set to make an impact at the international level, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

The consultancy assessed 500 businesses from the region, all of which logged annual sales of $500m or more, were growing and profitable, and boasted strong overseas potential. It identified 50 organisations, ranging from $500m to $63bn in size, as "the face of Southeast Asian dynamism".

Rising consumer spending, better regulation and the demand for natural resources and low cost production were found to be these firms' main drivers of growth.

Currently, companies like Axiata, a Malaysian telco present in seven markets, Petra Foods, based in Singapore and one of the top three cocoa suppliers worldwide, and Indorama Ventures, a Thai plastics group drawing 86% of sales from abroad, are often only "known by industry insiders".

"That may be about to change," BCG suggested. "Within a few years, many of these companies will likely play leading roles on the global stage."

PTT, a state-owned oil and gas enterprise from Thailand, has set out plans to join the Fortune 100 and invest $110bn in the coming decade, 50% of which will be spent overseas.

AirAsia, from Malaysia, is also regularly recognised for setting new standards in the low-cost air travel segment, while Mayora, and Indonesian food and snacks manufacturer, exports to over 80 nations.

Capital Land, a Singaporean development company, and Capital Land, a Thai holding group active in areas from retail to real estate, were described as "masters of emerging markets", having created unique business models.

Maybank and CIMB, two Malaysian financial services groups, exemplified the trend of achieving a rapid "regional rollout". YTL, from the same nation, and Keppel, from Singapore, were examples of big conglomerates finding "global niches".

BCG's study added that its group of 50 challengers had seen annual sales growth of 18% over decade to 2010, versus 9% for their global peers and 7% for members of the S&P 500 index. They also possessed an advantage for margins levels.

Among the existing exemplars for these operators to follow, BCG suggested, were Singapore Airlines, the air carrier, and Petronas, the energy company, which are "already champions" from the region.

Looking ahead, it predicted Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, BreadTalk, the bakery group, Charles & Keith, the footwear and accessories specialist, all of which are based in Singapore, could be next to join the league of top challengers.

Data sourced from Boston Consulting Group; additional content by Warc staff